Land Day in the Israeli media’s perspective-Nabih Bashir
It has become clear to all of us that the various media outlets are not a channel that carries the community’s mood to the government and legislation and vice versa, i.e. carries the decisions and prevailing mood among the politicians to the public. It is a means to shape public opinion and customize it by providing vocabulary, semantics and certain information and connect them with each other, and thus draw a “logical” picture of what is difficult for the “idle” reader to penetrate and analyze. From this perspective, the media is an integral part of the state apparatus or the dominant nation, and is a result of their objectives and interactions with each other. As part of the state apparatus and the dominant elite in Israeli society, it is considered an exclusionary instrument that promotes the marginalization of the marginalized and sometimes feeds on public consensus (exclusionary Zionist), while other times produces it.
For ideological, political and marketing considerations, the media often uses overtones and vocabulary that carry symbolic connotations to transform an event more tragic than it already is. This leaves profound effects in the consciousness of the reader, such as stirring mental repercussions and the specter of personal threat, especially in the context of talking about marginalized groups in society, such as national minorities and politically ‘deviant’ groups (such as demonstrators), therefore leading to the removal of the political nature of the manifestations of protest and the demonstrators’ claims. All of this is based on concepts and conventions derived from the “social problem” school; such as chaos, violence, vandalism and anti-Semitism, etc.
In the period after the 1973 war, research literature on the emergency transformation of the Israeli press’ role stopped. This was represented in self-criticism of the marginalization of the supervisory role of the fourth estate (various media) to the work of Israeli government bodies and activities. This transformation cannot be perceived through the Israeli media’s treatment of the Arab society, but was limited to it only dealing with issues of the Jewish community. Israeli media in its different forms and channels, continued to adopt both the political and security position of the Israeli establishment. While, in the best case scenario would refer to the “opinions” of some Arab leaders and put them in quotes.
If we take the “Haaretz” newspaper reports as an example of the Israeli media from the day the decision to strike on March 30, 1976 was made (the decision was taken in mid-February), it is clear that the newspaper had proceeded to characterize the strike from the third of March as a serious threat to the political and social stability in the country. It described the strike before it happened (starting from March 3rd to 29th) as a “day of disturbances”, “violent and brutal”, and used vocabulary drawn from the world of crime; “violence”, “incitement”, “chaos”, “disorder”, “barbaric”, “stones”, etc. stating that it is in actuality a conflict between the Jewish and Arab communities in the country. It summarized the reasons that led to making the decision as due to the intensity of internal and external “serious incitement” and objection to the “Jewish presence in the Galilee”. It went on to say that state institutions must deal with the strike and its leaders on the basis of directing shock and using repressive systems such as the police, the “security forces”, and violent equipment. Then, the day after the strike, it explained the large number of deaths and physical injuries among the demonstrators as resulting from the severity of “demonstrators’ violence”.
During this period, journalists gleaned their information from security sources and Jewish political officials exclusively, all of which came in order to legitimize the use of military force and police violence against the demonstrators, and disarm the political nature of the strike. They also used Hebrew expressions that have special connotations, such as “events”, which are often used in the Zionist lexicon to describe the killings and massacres suffered by Jews in Europe from the middle ages to the modern era.
Israeli journalist reports that covered the general strike on March 30, 1976, were characterized by their tireless efforts to empty all aspects of the protest, demonstrations, speeches, and Arab festivals that took place before and during Land Day, of their political implications, particularly the civil implications. They replaced them with connotations and implications taken from traditional crime, anti-Semitism, senseless violence and destructive chaos lexicons that have no objective but vandalism, violence and murder, and are based on the argument that violence and vandalism are the objective and do not carry political connotations. Of course, added to that is the implicit or explicit basis to the eternal hostility to Jews argument that feeds on the ancient Jewish scholars saying; “Esau [eternally] hated Jacob”, which summarizes the mentality that all human beings are hostile to the Jews, not for their behavior or thoughts, but simply because they are Jews. However, in some of the articles and reports the argument appears that the objective of this “rioting”, “violence” and “vandalism” comes “to demand regional secession from the state”, and to object to the Jewish presence in Galilee, but all of these claims and objections have a criminal and inflammatory nature rather than political and civilian aims.
Furthermore, one of the research results of the Israeli press reports of the strike, and the public activity surrounding it, is represented in its portrayal as a threat to the political and social reality in the country, in addition to being a struggle and confrontation with the Jewish community as a whole, and not with arms of the state and its policies. Moreover, some researchers revealed to us that the Israeli media used the language of “threat” to address the Arab population, their leaders and masses, as if it was part of the military or police in the conflict. They rejected all the reasons and rationale that led the Arab leadership to declare the strike, and fully acclimatized with all the police, army, Israeli political and security leaders’ justifications.
Days before the strike, the Israeli media paved the way to delegitimize it completely. They removed the civil and political connotations and demands from the strike and in many reports and articles used a colonial tone in their vocabulary, metaphorical images and different overtones. The “Haaretz” newspaper correspondent, Yehuda Ariel, in his article on March 3, 1976 expressed his inability to understand the objectives of the strike and those behind it, as the strike is “inconsistent” with “intellect” and “feelings”, as well as all “interests” and rational and moral considerations;
The establishment of Carmiel led to the development of the electricity, water, telephone, and street networks, and reverberated on all the villages in the area with extraordinary economic prosperity. In addition to the Arabs workers absorbed in Carmiel, there were hundreds of villagers who benefited from the services that were added in the vicinity of Carmiel, which included services such as transportation, mobility, marketing and so on. However, the villagers, who are members of the minority in the Galilee, do not want to hear this or acknowledge these facts.
In another article, titled “barbaric strike”, the newspaper added that the General Workers Union in Haifa and its surroundings “will not provide legal services for the Arab workers who will be fired for being on strike or absent from their work on 31 March 1976”.
The “Maariv” newspaper on 7 March 1976, saw that it was very important to point out that “the Nazareth Conference decisions” (March 6, 1976), also included an approach to the United Nations; “some of the speakers at the conference called for a hunger strike in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York, and to approach world public opinion”. On the same day, the Yediot Ahronot newspaper reporter mentioned; “government circles have expressed their disapproval of the Nazareth Conference decisions and considered them the most dangerous decisions taken since the establishment of the state”.
In addition, in the editorial on March 28, 1976, the “Haaretz” newspaper under the title “Stones in the Face of Reason”, had the following to say;
“The heads of the Arab local councils who voted to cancel the strike [...] last Tuesday acted wisely [...] because they realize [the fact] that strikes of an international political nature are a dangerous method, and their use can cause serious damage to those who utilize them, and perhaps cause greater damage than the aim of the strike.”
At the end of the editorial, there was an actual threat to the Arab residents of the country, their leadership and institutions; “You can work legally against this decision (to strike), and whoever tries the path of incitement and violence will receive an appropriate response”.
On 21 March, on the front page of the “Haaretz” newspaper, a main report was published, entitled; “We must take drastic steps against the Arab strike on the 30th of the month”. On the day of the strike, this newspaper published a main report on the first page titled; “incitement at its ultimate”. The newspaper threatened, “Whoever sows the wind reaps the storm: the strike planners have encouraged the riots, they must not be surprised by the security forces reestablishment of public order”.
From the beginning of March and onward, Israeli media used the incitement coming from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the characterization of the strike as part of the framework of the Arab-Israeli conflict as one of the most important justifications to delegitimize the strike. The “Haaretz” newspaper (28 March 1976) published a main article on the front page titled; “The Communist Party activists are threatening to send the names of the non-strikers to the Palestine Liberation Organization”.
The Israeli media incitement against the Arab population, their political parties and leadership continued after Land Day. This incitement was promoted through citation of analyses of political figures and Arabists (specialists in Arab affairs). On the eve of “Land Day”, the “Yediot Ahronot” newspaper published the text of lectures delivered in a seminar attended by researchers from the “Shiloh” Institute at Tel Aviv University on the Arab population in Israel in the wake of Land Day. Shimon Shamir presented the developments taking place in the Arab sphere, and referred to the Arab population in Israel as a “dangerous mass”;
“These days, the number of Israeli Arabs is over half a million people, and they form a dangerous mass. It should be noted that the Jewish population, on the eve of the establishment of the state, has not increased much from half a million people. [...] Israel is moving into a new phase, and stands on the threshold of the lean years and the State of Israel can no longer radiate strength and confidence as it did in the past.”
In addition, many voices in the Israeli street were raised demanding the delegitimization of the Communist Party and its leaders, and the invalidation of the heads of Arab local authorities. Aaron Gifa dealt with such a claim in one of his articles in the “Davar” newspaper on 6 April 1976, which stated that this “will not improve our image abroad (...) It will not remove the real cause of the unrest in Nazareth and the Triangle, which is exemplified by the presence of an Arab nationalistic movement or, as I have heard from a large number of soldiers saying; they throw stones at us, because they do not want us here”.
The Israeli media continued with this incitement for many years after the first Land Day, and directly threatened the Arab citizens, until it reached the point where it brandished the threat of displacement. On 27 March 1997, three days before the Land Day anniversary in 1997, the editor of the most popular newspaper in Israel, “Yediot Ahronot”, threatened the following;
“The right to protest does not include the right to permanent deformation, the closure of roads, throwing stones at passing buses, colliding with the police, or violating the law in any circumstance. Again, it should be clear to Israeli Arabs that a large amount of their Israeliness is based on their loyalty to the state and its laws. If they refuse these laws, no one will block their way to immigration.”
A number of researchers who have studied the Israeli media coverage of the annual Land Day commemoration, from 1978 until 1999, have come to the conclusion that “Land Day in the Israeli media has become a public ritual to degrade the status and significance of the Arab population in Israel”; Year after year, the Jewish majority are told that the Arab minority in Israel are wielding a threat, but after the Land Day festival ends without any violent incidents, the Israeli media and the public breathe a sigh of relief”.
The researchers add that, “It seems that the Hebrew media suffers somewhat from a severe loss of collective memory, as they totally forget the lessons of the past years”. The researchers also conclude that the majority of Israeli press reports constantly refer to the state's Arab citizens as an issue of crime, unemployment and disturbing the public order, all of which are linked by a threat factor. Land Day is dealt with as a security, and not a political nor a civilian event, and there are no differences between all the Israeli newspapers in these matters. The Israeli media depicts Land Day as an “Arab protest against the Jewish state, as an issue of “them” against “us”. According to some other comparative research, the Israeli media in dealing with issues of the Arab residents in the country, particularly in the context of talking about strikes and manifestations of protest and demonstrations, did not change much in the coverage of the “October 2000” events.